Ireland’s agriculture minister quits after breaking lockdown rules
By Padraic Halpin
Dublin - Ireland's prime minister on Friday accepted the resignation of Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary after his attendance at a social event drew public anger for having apparently breached rules to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Calleary apologised "unreservedly" late on Thursday for being at a hotel dinner hosted by the Irish parliament's golf society, a day after the government significantly tightened nationwide restrictions to try to rein in a spike in infections.
Ireland has maintained some of the strictest controls in Europe and the government faced criticism all week for what many saw as poorly communicated and contradictory new restrictions, including limiting indoor gatherings to just six people.
More than 80 people, reported to have included European Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan and other politicians, attended the golf outing held the night after Calleary and his cabinet colleagues introduced the new measures.
"His attendance at this event was wrong and an error of judgement on his part. I have accepted his resignation. He has made the right decision for the country," Prime Minister Micheál Martin said in a statement.
"People all over the country have made very difficult, personal sacrifices in their family lives and in their businesses to comply with Covid regulations. This event should not have gone ahead in the manner it did."
A version of Calleary's apology on his Twitter account received almost 2 000 replies within two hours, many from people angry that they were unable to attend funerals because of the restrictions or had to cancel holidays or weddings.
The Irish Times quoted a person who stayed at the hotel and did not wish to be named as saying that he saw no evidence of social distancing when the attendees arrived, that they were not wearing masks, and that they shook hands with one another.
Calleary was named agriculture minister last month when his predecessor was fired after news emerged of a drink-driving prosecution just two weeks into the term of Martin's new coalition government.